Rebecca Oakley on target for Billabong Pro Junior Series
With the Junior boy’s given a reprieve on day three of the Billabong Pro Junior Series on the Sunshine Coast, it was left to Australia’s best young gidgets to fight it out for a spot in the junior girls semi finals yesterday. Small 0.5-1m waves at Coolum Beach made it tough going for some competitors but did little to hold back the likes of Sally Fitzgibbons (Gerroa) Rebecca Oakley (Sunshine Beach), Paige Hareb (NZ) and Laura Enever (Narrabeen) who all ripped through to the semi finals.
16-year-old Fitzgibbons led the way for the ladies on day three, notching up the highest wave and heat score of the event (Men’s and Women’s) to set up a semi final clash with the local surfer Oakley. While her quarter final total failed to match her earlier round four top score, a 4.93 and a 6.83 was enough to progress ahead of Oakley and dispose of 2006 ASP Australasian Junior Series Champion Airini Mason (Tugun) and local surfer Lori Kelly (Caloundra)
“The conditions were a bit trickier since the high tide but I still managed to make do with what I got," said Fitzgibbons. “The waves are changing every heat and even every couple of minutes so it’s hard to pick the waves and pick where you are going to sit." Fitzgibbons made history on the Sunshine Coast in 2005 as a 14-year-old when she won five divisions of the Billabong Girls Easter Surfing Festival, finished second in the World Qualifying Series (WQS) open event and became the youngest surfer to ever win a junior series event.
“I’ve done a few junior contests now so I have a bit of experience under my belt so hopefully I can take it from there this week." Oakley is the loan remaining Sunshine Coaster in contention for the prestigious Pro Junior Series Girls win after Kelly was eliminated.
Oakley, 19, is out to secure her maiden junior series victory after only managing second and third placed finishes during her career to date. Turning 20 on Saturday, the powerful goofy footer is confident a birthday win will boost her confidence for her last year as a junior competitor.
“It was pretty hard, I had a slow start and was forced to play catch up for most of the heat," said Oakley. “I tried to shift around in the line-up a bit and luckily I found a good left hander that gave me the score I needed. I grew up in these average kind of conditions so I’m lucky in that respect."
The impending semi final clash against inform Fitzgibbons will prove to be the final before the final with both surfers clear standouts in competition to date. “Sally is a great competitor and she isn’t easy at all but I think it is anyone’s game out there, so long as I stick to my plan and get a few waves then I am in with a chance."
Kiwi surfer Paige Hareb booked a spot in the second semi final with a confident win over Sydney young gun Laura Enever (Narrabeen), Brittany Nichols (Cabarita) and West Australian Jaala Baldock (Hillary’s).
Hareb lead from the outset after notching up a 7.67 on her opening ride before securing the win with a backup 6.17 late in the 20-minute exchange. Enever also started strongly to reach her maiden pro junior semi final, a 7.17 in the small conditions setting up a solid second place. Hareb and Enever will now square off in the second semi final to face the winner of Fitzgibbons and Oakley in the final scheduled for midday Saturday.
The Billabong Pro Junior Series will recommence in the morning with the location to be decided according to surf conditions. The main seeded round of junior men will hit the water at 8am with 11 locals boys still in the hunt. Hometown favourite Julian Wilson (Coolum) will contest the opening heat of the round against Curtis Ewing (Pt Lookout), Nick McMullen (Austinmer) and Frenchman Vincent Duvignac when competition gets underway at 8am.
Other heavy hitters to keep an eye on in the main seeded third round will be Angourie local Laurie Towner, Mitch Coleborn (Maroochydore), Heath Joske (Nambucca Heads), Jeremy Flores (France) and Nick Vasicek (Coolangatta). The Billabong Pro Junior Series official after party will be staged at the Sands Hotel Maroochydore on Saturday night beginning at 7:30pm starring the rocking sounds of Intercooler with all Sunshine Coasters welcome to attend.
1999 World Surfing Champion Mark Occhilupo will also be in town this week, signing autographs at the Billabong Store, Hastings Street Noosa at 2pm on Saturday. Event updates will be available on www.surfingaustralia.com. The Billabong Pro Junior Series event on the Sunshine Coast is supported by Vodafone, Panasonic, UV Triplegard, Clearasil, Von Zipper, Kustom and Surfing Queensland.